I Can’t Make Time Stand Still

With every new baby, I’ve tried to soak up the moments. I’ve tried to slow down time in my head and enjoy the precious human in front of me – absorb every scent, texture, movement, and memory. But my attempts at holding back the passing of time are sand sifting through my fingers. Everything goes by so fast. I can only hold it so long. One moment, my baby enters this world and is placed on my belly, the next, she is posing for a picture holding a college degree. What they say is true: “It all goes by so fast.” And there’s nothing I can do about it.

I’m nowhere near the college picture pose with my children, but even in my six short years of being a mom, I feel the fleeting nature of time. I feel it as I clean out old baby clothes in the basement for donations. I feel it as life gets fuller with more children and therefore busier. I feel it as I look at old pictures on my phone or past memories on Facebook. I’m struggling with my children growing up and myself getting older. Ultimately, I’m wrestling with my mortality. King Solomon knew that “A generation goes, and a generation comes. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises” (Eccl 1:4-5),for “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow” (Ps 144:4). These are not meant to be depressing truths, but truths meant to elevate our eyes to see our great God.

In Isaiah 38, King Hezekiah receives devastating news from the prophet Isaiah: the King will soon die and will not recover. “Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (Isa 38:2-3). In turn, God tells Hezekiah that “he has heard his prayer and seen his tears.” He promises to add fifteen years to his life and give him a sign of this promise. In verse 8, God says, “Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” The Hebrew meaning of this verse is uncertain, but we can see that God is in control over the shadow cast by the setting sun. We serve a God who can turn back time and add years to a death sentence.

In Joshua 10, we see a God who can make time stand still. Joshua and his army were up against the Amorites, and before entering battle, the Lord told Joshua that he would fight for him (Josh 10:8). After throwing the enemy army into a panic and hurling giant hailstones down at them, God answered the prayers of Joshua by holding the sun and moon in balance (Josh 10:12-13). “The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel” (Josh 10:13-14).

We want to be like God, don’t we? We want to turn back time, get more time, and even make time stop. But instead, we’re forced forward, pushed along by clocks and calendars. We can’t master time or gain control over the passing moments. For we ourselves are but a mere passing breath.

I’ve never felt more helpless as I do when I see my children grow and change, with every inch gained and recorded every year. But it’s good for me.

It’s good for me to cry out with the Psalmist and say,

“O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (Ps 39:4-5)

It’s good to wrestle with my own mortality, and then accept that I’m not God. Owning this truth puts me in my rightful place as a created being, where I belong, and when I’m where God designed me to be, then I have peace and joy. Seeing myself rightly, and God rightly, helps me grow in holiness. And as I continue to wrestle with and accept this truth that he is God and I am not, peace comes into my heart more and more, and my awe of God grows, which in turn causes my holiness to grow.

Ican’t go back to my Facebook memory from five years ago. I only have so much time, and then it keeps moving on. I’m constrained and constricted. But God is not. He’s outside of time and ruling over it.

But, as C.S. Lewis says, “It is really, I suggest, a timeless truth about God that human nature, and the human experience of weakness and sleep and ignorance, are somehow included in his whole divine life.”

The God, who rules and reigns over time, entered into time and experienced the same frustrations with time as his own people. He knows we are but dust (Ps 103:14-16). He just wants us to know it too.


This originally appeared on Morning by Morning >>

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Take Your Family to the House of Mourning: Children’s Books that Move Us

My son was hiding under the art easel so I couldn’t see him.

“Simon, come here. What are you doing?”

He shook his head, fighting back tears.

“Simon, please come here.”

He slowly crawled out of his hiding spot and walked over to me.

I brought him in close and said, “If you feel like crying, you should cry. What you’re doing is good, Simon. It’s good to be sad about death. Death is wrong.”

“It is?” he asked.

I said yes, we cried a little bit and held each other, then kept reading.

No one in our family has died recently, I’ve just been reading out loud to my six year old son from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. It’s been a mixture of tears and laughter and some healthy discussions about hard topics. I’ve found the element of story to be a great way to talk about hard things with my son. Great children’s literature is wrought with deep universal topics and questions that have been shared throughout history.

Even from a young age, we can ask our children good questions to build healthy discussions about hard topics. When I’ve not avoided difficult topics, like death, loss, and racism, my son and I have bonded more. It’s crucial to listen to Solomon in Ecclesiastes 7:2:

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.

It’s good to be reminded of our own mortality, because it humbles us to our rightful place as feeble humans, teaches us wisdom in order to number our days rightly, and helps us learn empathy for our fellow image bearers.

We don’t have to always scout out non-fiction by solely Christian authors in order to teach our children. We must not underestimate our children’s capability to absorb a story rich in ideas. Even if they don’t understand all of the concepts in the story on the first read aloud, it will become a treasure buried in their hearts and minds that can be re-discovered in various ways and connections later on. The point is to continually expose our children to these types of inspirational stories over the years of their childhood and even teenage years.

Here are a few literary stories that enable discussions over death, loss, and racism. And don’t forget that even if the discussions don’t “take off” in the ways we imagined, the main point is the exposure to the ideas in the text.

Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie

On our walk to church one morning my sons were observing and delighting in all the freshly blossomed flowers. Then we stumbled upon a dead bird. Right in the middle of new spring life was a dark death. We must all be confronted with death at some point in our lives. My sons can’t even escape this reality on an innocent walk to church.

In Peter Pan,  J.M. Barrie helps children confront death and loss through a magical and imaginative place called Neverland. A place where children never grow up and are always on an adventure. Though I’ve had to talk to my oldest son about the inappropriate names and portrayal of Native Americans in the book, we’ve laughed and cried together too.

We marveled at Peter’s Christ like sacrifice when he let Wendy have the balloon to escape from drowning. Then we cried when the rising waters of mermaid lagoon threatened to take Peter’s life, and after a bout of fear his courage returned as he cried, “To die would be an awfully great adventure!” The ticking clock of the crocodile, in constant pursuit of Captain Hook, clues us into the sure fate of us all. As J.M. Barrie says, “Time is chasing after all of us.” Hook only has so much allotted time until he is swallowed up in death. So, how should we spend the time we are given?

My son and I were able to talk about orphans when we realized Peter Pan and the lost boys had no parents and desperately desired a mother. We felt empathy for Peter as he gazed through the barred windows at the joyful family reunion of the Darling family. Especially, when we remembered his own personal loss: coming back to his nursery window from Neverland to find it closed, as he peered inside to see his parents with a new baby boy. My son and I shed our own tears at this loss of family. We felt for Peter. Entering into another’s loss, learning about time and death, and courage and sacrifice are life lessons we want to share with our children. Peter Pan can help us do this.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Wilbur the pig comes into this world with a natural human desire: he doesn’t want to die. He’s saved from eight year old Fern who wants to keep him as her pet, until he grows too big and is sold to another farm. He finds himself on death row again, but this time he’s saved from a spider named Charlotte who can weave words into her web. Her plan to rescue Wilbur works and even makes him famous in the process. Charlotte and Wilbur show us that death is a part of living, and that death teaches us how to live. As Charlotte tells Wilbur:

You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.

Charlotte sacrificed her short life for Wilbur so he himself could live. A spider can show us, and our children, that life is short and we must spend it for others. And as we deal with the loss of a loved one, Wilbur teaches us that they can never be forgotten or replaced:

Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart.

Freedom Song: The Story of Henry Box Brown by Sally Walker

This title is different from the first two books. It’s not an old book, like the other two, and might not neatly fit into the idea of a true “literary” read, but it still helps convey the idea of slavery to young children. It’s a picture book and tells a true story from the perspective of a slave. I’ve explained slavery to my oldest son before, but reading this book helped him see it as something more concrete and human. He felt the injustice.

Music also plays an important part in this story as Henry longs for freedom and creates his own songs in the midst of hope and despair. He is separated from his family when he is sold to another master.  But we find happiness with him as he marries and starts his own family, only to feel his loss as his family is ripped away from him and sold. He hatches a plan to hide away in a box to the north, and the desire for him to be free is born in us. There is another similar picture book about Henry Box Brown by Ellen Levine called, Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad.

The right story can be a powerful tool to display truth and beauty to our children. Along the way, story teaches us to feel and to know. To know about slavery and to feel the pain of bondage and separation. To know about death and feel that we must learn to live our lives rightly. To know about loss and feel the right way to respond. In our day and time it’s more important than ever to raise up children who feel moved on another’s behalf and who desire to tabernacle among the suffering.


This originally appeared at Morning by Morning >>

Planting Seeds of Gospel Hope

She was a new mom who stayed home with her baby boy. A woman in the neighborhood was home with her growing family as well. She, along with a few other ladies from the neighborhood, led a Bible study and invited the new mom to join them. The good news was on their tongues and expressed in their deeds towards her. They told her about a God who offered forgiveness of sins through his own death and resurrection. She was accepted and loved by these women, and so she believed God could accept and love her through Jesus. God used these neighborhood women to shine his light into this new mom’s heart; she believed by faith in the son of God and accepted his words as true. Her husband could see the change in her and began to ask questions. After meeting up with the husband of the woman who led the Bible study, he came to faith as well.

This couple grew in their passion for the gospel as their family grew in size. They desired to tell others the same message they were told and began cultivating relationships in their surrounding neighborhood and workplace. Many years later, as this couple and their youngest daughter were gathered in their family room discussing the Bible, this father led his little girl to Christ and she was forever changed. That little girl was me.

Because of this, my parent’s heart for evangelism spread to me. I spent much of my high school and college years intentionally building relationships with unbelievers, sharing the gospel with strangers, and passing out tracts. I even wanted to bring this message to other nations as a missionary. But God was leading me to a different season than I imagined for myself. A season that didn’t look like typical missions work or much of an evangelistic opportunity. I was to become a wife and mother.

Read the rest at Risen Motherhood >>

The Hidden Beauty of Repetition

Here is my original contribution to Morning by Morning’s Gospel and the Arts series:

Monotony can be depressing. There are times when I have to put on my cap of duty and just get the bathroom cleaned. Or times when I’m tired of taking my boys to the same places to play over and over again. Sometimes it feels like I just planned my meals yesterday and now I already have to think about what we’ll eat this week, and then actually shop for it all, again. I try not to think about the monotony of repetition when I get up with my three children during the week: get up, change the baby, make my bed, dress myself, put the toddler on the potty, get the boys dressed and beds made, go downstairs to make breakfast for us all, finally I make my cup of coffee, and back upstairs to start our school time. Repeat. Repeat again.

Repetition can be comforting at times, but also boring. I spend the majority of my time taking care of my family and my home. Care-taking and homemaking are repetitive tasks. I just fed the baby, and two hours later, I repeat. I just told my boys to stop fighting and fifteen minutes later I’m saying it again. I begin the evening’s meal preparation, even though I just put away dishes from our previous meal. Everyday is fundamentally the same. Homemaking can be dry and dull, but what if it’s really meant to be full of life and creative expression?

Read the rest at Morning by Morning >>

Finding Freedom at the End of Yourself

God has used marriage and motherhood to bring me to the end of myself. In my single years, I took pride in my emotional stability, my innate strength, my independence, and even my lack of felt need for a man. I didn’t even think I was too bad in the godliness department.

Yet it wasn’t long after embarking on the ship to motherhood-land that I realized how impatient and angry I could be. And five years into my marriage, I was struck by a blow I was always afraid to face. Both of these instances drove me to my knees in desperation.

The last seven years of marriage and motherhood have bitten chunks out of my usual stable emotions, showed me how weak I actually am, killed my independence, and helped me feel needy for one particular man: the sinless Savior who died for me.

Read the rest at Revive Our Hearts >>

Body Image and Baby Jesus

Before getting pregnant with my third child I worried about my body image. Will I be able to lose the baby weight a third time? Will there be more sagging? More stretching and scars? My postpartum body just doesn’t measure up to images on social media or the magazine aisle at checkout.

The cultural and social pressure out there is tough on our bodies, especially for women. Fat is stigmatized, muscle should be toned, and beach body ready by summertime. If the view of our bodies is reduced to only a scale number and a certain “fit look” then we are missing out on God’s design for our bodies.

They are a temple of the Holy Spirit, which he bought at a great cost (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Since our bodies are good and not our own, we are called to cherish and care for them and use them in service and sacrifice (Romans 12:1).

Although tempted to believe otherwise when I look in the mirror, my pregnant body is good and my postpartum body is good. Scars and sagging skin are the marks I bear on my body in service of others, like when Jesus showed the disciples the nail scars in his hands. It was good for him to sacrifice his body for me, and it’s good for me to sacrifice my body for another.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Momma, Jesus Invites you to Come and Rest

Resting around my house can be quite difficult. My two boys don’t take naps anymore, and the only time I feel like I can “get away” is through handheld devices and copious amounts of snacks. But of course I can’t do that for too long or I feel guilty. So, the work doesn’t end, and it feels like there is no true Sabbath for me. Resting on the seventh day just doesn’t seem possible. How can a busy mom find rest for herself? It’s ultimately through cultivating a place of rest that can never be taken away and isn’t restricted to one day of the week. It’s a place of rest in the heart, rooted in a particular person.

Read more at Risen Motherhood >>

Every Good Mom Dies

I’m expecting child number three soon. It feels like starting from the beginning. After two boys, we’ll be having a girl. It’s fun to put together a brand new wardrobe and nursery decorations. We enjoy hearing my sons talk about their coming baby sister. It’s exciting for me to wonder what it will be like to have a daughter.

But there is one big difference from expecting my first to expecting my third. I’ve already died. Though motherhood involves many daily deaths, having my firstborn was the decisive blow.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

How God is Glorified in the Failures of Motherhood

When I look back on my parenting I know I’ll have regrets, mainly, because I know I’m not perfect. After all, I’m always learning and changing. God is still forming Christ in me, so I’m still a work in progress. But how does knowing these things change my parenting now? I have a five-year-old, three-year-old, and an infant on the way. I haven’t traveled too far in this parenting business, but I’m already acquainted with my failures as a mom. I often thoughtfully ponder the question, “How can I fail for the glory of God and use it in my parenting?”

Read the three points at Servants of Grace >>

 

If You Want to Live Truly, Learn to Die Daily

All year round the thorn of the gorse bush has been hardening and sharpening. Even in spring, the thorn does not soften or fall off. But at last, about halfway up, two brown furry balls emerge. They are small at first, but then they fully break out of last year’s thorn to flower into a ray of sunshine. The hardness gives way to a delicate beauty. The death of the thorn splits open to produce a blossoming resurrection of life. Death and resurrection.

We find the same pattern in our own lives.

I noticed this death-and-resurrection pattern when I became a mother. I had a traumatic birth experience, my full-term baby had to be admitted to the NICU, and he wouldn’t nurse. I battled through the difficult nursing experience I had with him for two weeks, was just about to give up, and then it worked out. When we got home from the hospital he would cry all night, and not go back to sleep, even when he was just fed. I would usually cry with him.

When evening time would come, feelings of dread would make my stomach sick because I knew what night would bring. On top of this, my body was trying to adjust to this new transition. My hormones launched me into depression. I would cry a lot for no reason, and I felt a constant loneliness and then guilt on top of it all for feeling like this when I had a new baby.

This was supposed to be a joyful time. But I felt like I was dying.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Parenting Perfection and What our Kids Need Most

Many mommy blogs and parenting articles are about what we can do (or should do) for our children. We read articles, blog posts, and books about making our kids more grateful, ways to show them more grace, ways to better train and discipline, and even ways we can better feed them. We want to be better mothers who do good works for our family. This is a good desire, and one we have evidence for from biblical principles and commands.

But many of these mommy blog posts miss our children’s greatest need. They need a greater good work than we can offer them; a good work of the heart that comes from the Holy Spirit.

Read the rest at ERLC >>

The Captivating Power of a Good Family

The more books I read to my kids, the more movies I watch with them, and the more Disney Junior shows they consume, I see one clear gospel message: “Believe in yourself.” But a close runner-up to this message would be a gospel about family, for instance in the powerful and popular new show, This Is Us. Many movies today, for every age and demographic, bring the moral of the story back to the family.

The workaholic dad finally finds his meaning in his family. The working mom that barely gets it all done realizes her life is really about her family. The rebellious teen ends up finding healing in his family. It’s a typical theme, moral, or virtue that is lifted up as one of many gods of our age. The family is often portrayed as the salvation of mankind. Family is where we find ultimate meaning.

It’s good, clean fun to believe in family, so nobody questions it. As Christians, we can agree with the value of family in movies and television, because we know the God who designed and blessed the family structure.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Missional Motherhood Study: Weeks 5 & 6

Today was the last day of my moms group and I thought I would cover our discussion from weeks 5 and 6. Two weeks ago we mainly talked about the “thousands of little deaths to self” we do as moms everyday. This idea is drawn from 2 Corinthians 4:11:

“For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

We also discussed the idea that evangelism is a mom’s work, but the giving of faith is Gods. There is freedom in knowing that it isn’t all up to us to save our children. We do have a great influence on them, and God uses us in mighty ways in our children’s lives, but only God can make blind eyes see and awaken a sleeping heart.

In today’s group we talked a lot about homemaking and the difference between making our homes an idol and making them a place to display the gospel to others (in our family and outside our family). Gloria says, “Titus 2 is not about how Christian women need to be domestic goddesses; it’s about how Christian women point people to God.” We manage our homes, in our own unique ways, to love and serve and give freely to others. Gloria speaks to this as well, “Homemaking is a strategic everyday ministry designed by God to adorn his gospel in this age….We don’t manage our homes because our homes are our hope. We manage our homes because Christ is our hope.” 

We ended the discussion today with the assurance that God will fulfill his mission in the world and in his Church, because he tells us so in his Word, and has made it evident through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and by giving us the Holy Spirit. He designed us and equips us for missional motherhood to our own children and other disciples. It is his work.

 

Missional Motherhood Study: Week 4

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This last Monday in group we mainly talked about Gloria’s take on mothering being a ministry of the priesthood. She references the Old Testament priesthood. The old sacrificial system involved one man, the High Priest, entering the Most Holy Place once a year to make atonement for the people’s sins (and is own) using animal sacrifices. This was the basis for the old covenant God made with his people. It was the provision God enabled so his people could draw near to him in a limited way. But this old way of sacrifice was also a foreshadowing of God’s ultimate plan to make final atonement for his people through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He instituted a better covenant and his sacrifice was more effective. Since Jesus was a perfect High Priest he could sacrifice himself, and his death would be sufficient for all eternity.

It is on this basis that now we each have direct and unlimited access to God through our great High Priest Jesus. And because of this we are all priests ourselves:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9

Now God calls each of us a priest; he qualifies us for the priesthood through Christ’s priesthood. This is where Gloria brings our everyday mothering into perspective as an act of the priesthood we are apart of. In her book, Gloria connects the incense offered by the priest in the tabernacle to the prayers of a mother being a fragrant offering to the Lord. We go before God on behalf of our children to offer up our incense of prayers. God has had mercy on our children by providing a priest in the next room offering up prayers for them. Mothering is part of our priesthood.

Missional Motherhood Study: Week 3

I was recently traveling with my family, so my moms group met this past Wednesday instead of Monday. Only two ladies were present, but we spent a long time talking about Gloria’s take on seasonal obsessive disorder (which is not a real disorder) and comparing it to our lives. In Jesus’ day the Jews were ‘obsessing’ about their season of oppressive Roman rule and they expected the Messiah to deliver them. But while the Jews were looking for someone to deliver them from their temporary situation, they were overlooking their greater need for eternal deliverance. In much the same way, we as moms can obsess over the season of parenting we are in with our children and pine for a different season.

I know lately I’ve been pining for a season when my boys are more independent from me. I can day dream about having more freedom, especially with my two year old who clings to me day and night. And yet my eyes are set on the temporal circumstances of my life when they should ultimately be set on hope in Christ and his return. Gloria reminds us that we are all in the larger season of life, which is wrought with hardship. In every season we find ourselves in, and in all of this tumultuous life, Christ is the anchor for our souls. What a solid truth to hold fast to as a mom called to daily nurturing of little bodies and souls.